When Lord Ashworth is found viciously murdered, there is little sympathy to be found. The handsome, debauched young man had earned a reputation for debased behavior, and the only one who appears to mourn his death is his father.
Sebastian, however, understands that what is generally known about the young man's behavior is only the tip of the iceberg. Although he was never able to connect him to the crimes in a previous case, he has no doubt that Ashworth was involved.
Evidence from the bloody crime scene suggests that the killer was a woman, and Sebastian fears that perhaps his niece, who is married to Ashworth, may be the culprit.
But Stephanie is only one possibility. Sebastian and Bowstreet magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy have a number of suspects; after all, Ashworth had plenty of enemies. Then Ashworth's valet is found stabbed to death in an alley, a street crossing boy disappears, a young prostitute is murdered, and Ashworth's long-time friend murdered. As despicable as Ashworth was, Sebastian needs to find his killer, if only to prevent an innocent person from being held to account.
Hero, Sebastian's wife, plays only a small role, but it is Hero who reveals most of the historic details from the period. Hero is a social activist and is writing an article about the pure finders, rag and bone men, and night soil collectors.
Rag and Bone Men -- These bone-grubbers, as they were sometimes known, would typically spend nine or ten hours searching the streets of London for anything of value, before returning to their lodgings to sort whatever they had found. (source: Wikipedia)
2. PURE FINDER
Despite the clean-sounding name, this job actually involved collecting dog feces from the streets of London to sell to tanners, who used it in the leather-making process. Dog poop was known as "pure" because it was used to purify the leather and make it more flexible [PDF]. (source: Ten worst jobs in Victorian Era)
18th-century London nightman's calling card
Night soil is a historically used euphemism for human excreta collected from cesspools, privies, pail closets, pit latrines, privy middens, septic tanks, etc. This material was removed from the immediate area, usually at night, by workers employed in this trade. Sometimes it could be transported out of towns and sold on as a fertilizer. (source: Wikipedia)
Hero's interviews with those who survive by performing these jobs gives a much more human touch than simply reading the factual accounts of what the jobs entailed.
Once again, I've enjoyed the characters and the plot of a Sebastian St. Cyr novel and gained a more personal view of Regency England.
Read in December; blog review scheduled for March 13, 2019.
Historical Mystery. April 2, 2019. Print length: 352 pages.